What Mattered Most

What Mattered Most

by Linda Winfree

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640633155
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 08/21/2017
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 150
Sales rank: 589,226
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

How does an English teacher end up plotting murders? She uses her experiences as a cop's wife to become a writer of romantic suspense! Linda Winfree lives in a quintessential small Georgia town with her husband and grand-dog. By day, she teaches English/Language Arts and is an all-round education nerd; by night she pens sultry books full of murder and mayhem.

To learn more about Linda and her books, visit www.lindawinfreewrites.com or connect with her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/lindawinfreewrites. You can also contact Linda via email at lindawinfreewrites@gmail.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Desk duty sucked. With a sigh, Lanie Falconetti dropped the last flyer on the huge pile taking up half the desk. She missed the unpredictable nature of patrol, and if she had to look at one more schedule, report or freaking bass tournament flyer, she'd scream. Addressing advertisements for the department's annual fundraiser was not why she'd gone into law enforcement.

A folder hit the desktop and sent shiny, four-color pamphlets everywhere. They slid over the desk, and several fluttered to the floor. Anger sparked through her, and after a slow count to ten, she looked up.

Steve Martinez, his black hair windblown, grinned at her and dropped into the chair opposite the desk. "Incident reports to be filed. God, Falconetti, your stomach is huge. How much weight did you gain this month?"

Only the bond of a five-year partnership and the fact she wouldn't want to deliver her baby in prison kept her from killing him then and there. She bared her teeth in a semblance of a smile and shot a pointed glance at his midsection. He was in good shape, but sported a distinct thickening around his waistline since she'd gone on desk duty. The rookie he now partnered obviously didn't discourage him from super-sizing his value meals the way she always had.

"Well, Martinez, at least I have an excuse for getting fat. What's yours?"

A flush crept over his sharp cheekbones, and he cleared his throat. "How'd the appointment go?"

"Like they always do. I pee in a cup, they prick my finger, I get naked, and Dr. Shaw pokes and prods me. You want all the gory details of my pelvic exam?"

"No." Steve picked up the tacky tourist's water globe from the desk and shook it, sending metallic pink flamingos dancing along a plastic beach scene. "Did O'Reilly show for this one?"

Lanie flipped the incident report folder open and dropped her gaze from his. The urge to cry, which she'd been fighting all afternoon, rose again, and she squashed it. "No. He was called out on a multiple homicide early this morning, and when I called this afternoon, his precinct said he was out doing witness interviews."

"Yeah, Cameron needed help with those." Dry sarcasm coated the words.

She glared at him. "I know where you're going with this. John missed a doctor's appointment because he was busy. Big freaking deal. Remember when we had that huge pile-up on the bridge? You forgot your own sister's wedding."

He laughed. "Man, was my mom pissed or what?"

She didn't bother to answer. The whole reason she'd buried herself in addressing brochures was to help her forget John had stood her up again. A cold knot of hurt lodged in her throat, and she swallowed against it.

"Why do you let him get away with this?" A frown pulled Steve's dark brows together and he shrugged. "You wouldn't tolerate it from anyone else."

"It's his job, Steve. Is he supposed to just bail on an investigation because of my routine doctor's visit?" She shook her head, smothering the part of her that wanted him to do just that. With a quick glance at her watch, she pushed to her feet. "It's after three. See you later."

"Yeah. Be careful."

A couple of deputies greeted her in the parking lot, and she endured more good- natured teasing about her rapidly-expanding figure on the way to her car. "Kid," she addressed her stomach as she slipped behind the wheel of her SUV, "I will be so glad when you finally get here."

Glad no one could hear her carry on a one-sided conversation with a fetus, Lanie pulled out of the parking lot. Despite the cold, she let the windows down, loving the damp, salty air on her skin. The circuitous coastal highway was her route of choice for the short drive home. The island, tucked into the bay north of Galveston, had avoided commercialization and maintained a small-town air. Gulls dipped and swooped over the choppy waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and a lone sailboat drifted along the cloudy horizon. She loved this drive, loved this small island off the Texas coast with its gorgeous views and friendly atmosphere.

Within minutes, she drove into the driveway of the two-story cedar and glass contemporary she shared with John. The next couple of hours belonged to her before she could expect him home. Time enough for a long walk on the beach, the daily exercise her obstetrician insisted on, then a long soak in the tub before she and John went out for the evening.

As she unlocked the door and disarmed the security system, Lanie suppressed a sigh. She wasn't looking forward to tonight's gathering. Any other time, dinner with John and her friends at Emerson's, one of Cutter's beachfront dining and dancing hotspots, would be irresistible. But not tonight. Not with Caitlin and her all-seeing eyes. Lanie could convince Steve that John's seeming lack of interest in their child didn't hurt. She wasn't sure she could hide that hurt from her intuitive cousin, and Caitlin wouldn't keep quiet about it either.

They were too much alike, Lanie thought. She discarded her slacks and sweater and pulled on sweats, followed by her tennis shoes and a light windbreaker printed with the logo of the Haven County Sheriff's Department. If Caitlin was headstrong and quick to speak her mind, so was Lanie.

Except when speaking her mind involved giving John hell about missing doctor's appointments. Hands tucked in her pockets, she started down the beach, the damp sand crunching underfoot. She wanted to give him hell — she wanted to rant at him. Only that meant acting like her mother, and that was not an option.

So what if he missed the sonogram, missed seeing the awesome reality of their baby just weeks from birth? She'd show him the video, and somehow Lanie doubted this sonogram would be the last since Dr. Shaw seemed intent on monitoring the location of the placenta right up until delivery. He'd make the next one. She wasn't going to kick up a fuss, make a scene about it, the way her mother always had when her father missed a school function or a family outing.

How different would her mother's life have been if she hadn't been prone to the emotional blowouts that drove Lanie's father's crazy? For what had to be the thousandth time that year, Lanie swore to be different. She already was. John couldn't say she was overemotional.

Buoyed by the thought and the peaceful quiet of the beach, Lanie rested a hand against her stomach. "Okay, kid, promise number one hundred and twelve that Mom is going to keep or die trying — a peaceful, secure home life."

*
Lanie was going to kill him, and he deserved it.

John O'Reilly draped his coat over the back of the leather couch. He hadn't really forgotten the doctor's appointment. He'd remembered it — an hour too late, while he was wrapped up in trying to question a near-hysterical witness. That interview had given them a lead begging to be followed up, and he had forgotten to call and plead for forgiveness.

Guilt curled through him. The kid wasn't even here yet, and already he was a lousy father. What would he do when the baby was a reality instead of a lump that nudged him in the back every night?

The scents of vanilla and cinnamon wafted through the entire house. Following the aromas, he took the stairs two at a time, knowing just where he would find her. The weariness of a fourteen-hour day tugging at him, he stripped off his tie and suit jacket. In the bedroom, ivory candles flickered on every available surface — the nightstands, the bureaus, the long, low table at the foot of the bed. Tossing his tie and jacket on the plush chair in the corner, he stepped out of his shoes.

More candlelight drew him to the open bathroom door. Just as he'd expected, mounds of scented bubbles filled the large tub. Cinnamon and vanilla hung in the hot, moist air. Eyes closed, Lanie lounged in the tub, her dark hair piled in an untidy knot at the top of her head. Just above the bubbles, he could see the upper slope of her breasts, droplets glistening in the line of her cleavage.

John inhaled the sweet, spicy air. This was why he couldn't even walk into a bakery anymore without getting hard. Unbuttoning his shirt, he continued to watch her. She lifted one long leg, pointing red-polished toes in a feline stretch. God, she was graceful, even with the basketball-sized bulge of their baby poking above the water. His shirt fell to the hardwood floor in a soft rustle of starched cotton.

"Evening, Deputy Falconetti." He knelt by the tub and reached for her foot, kneading the muscles in a soft rhythm. Her ankle, slightly swollen, called out for a kiss, and he obliged, bubbles tickling his nose. "I'm a jerk. Scum. Lower than dirt."

"Is that an apology, Detective O'Reilly?" Her soft, lyrical voice wrapped around him. She propped her other foot on the edge of the tub, and he reached for it, treating it to the same massage.

"Yeah, it is." He pressed his thumbs into her arch, and she moaned, her pleasure zinging through him. "I'm sorry, Lanie. I know this was important to you —"

"And your job's important to you." She said the words without rancor, but they seemed too smooth, too practiced. "It's okay, John."

Okay? That was all? He ran his hand up her calf, watching her face. She closed her eyes and sank a little deeper in the water. "You don't want to yell at me or anything?"

"No."

He opened his mouth and closed it again. Why the need to push the issue? If she said it was okay, it was okay. Only it didn't feel right. She didn't feel right.

"Would you care to join me?" She reached out a languid hand to brush a finger down his chest.

"Aren't we going to dinner?" He had to push the words out, his mouth dry with a sudden rush of arousal. The doubts fled.

"I thought we might have dessert first." She opened her eyes and stunned him with the desire burning in the golden hazel depths. With a lazy gesture, she beckoned him closer, bubbles and water sliding over her smooth skin. "Are you coming in or not?"

"What do you think?" He shucked his slacks and briefs in one smooth movement. Chuckling, he tugged off his socks, tossed them aside and joined her.

*
Sleep drifted away, and John opened his eyes. Candlelight flickered around him still, reflected on the large glass doors, obscuring the twilight view of the Gulf. Lanie's soft, even breathing blended with the roar of incoming waves. One of his arms lay beneath her neck, the other draped over her waist. Under his hand, the hard, rounded bulge of her stomach felt warmer than the rest of her body. A flurry of activity shifted against his fingers.

His son.

John tasted the words, seeking the pride and affection he knew they should engender. He closed his eyes, frustrated when the effort failed. He wanted to be the father his son needed; he just didn't know how. What was he supposed to do? A vision of playing catch in the backyard rose in his mind, thanks to a ton of sappy commercials, but there had to be more to it than that. With his background, he didn't have a clue.

The baby moved again, kicking harder, and Lanie sighed and shifted in her sleep, her bare bottom pressed into his groin. A harsh groan escaped him, and his hand slid up to her swollen breast. All paternal thoughts fled his mind. He wanted her again already.

But he wanted her all the time, ever since the first time he'd met her. Even with the unisex deputy's uniform, bulky bulletproof vest and severe hairstyle, she'd been the sexiest woman he'd ever seen. His thoughts had taken a dive for the erotic and stayed there since. They'd ended up in bed during the first week of their acquaintance, and a month later, he'd taken her up on the laughing suggestion that he just move in, since half of his stuff had migrated to her beachfront home.

The sex had been plentiful and incredible.

The baby had been a kick to the jaw, thanks to a faulty condom.

He rubbed his palm over her distended nipple, his erection nestled against the cleft of her bottom. God, she felt good. Even heavy with child, she drew him like no woman ever had. His lips brushed her shoulder, traveling up the slope of her neck. Pure desire shot through him, mixed with gratitude for the simplicity of their relationship.

He wanted her, she would be the mother of his child, and she didn't make demands he couldn't fulfill. Lanie had not asked for his love, and that was fine with him. Look what giving away his heart had gotten him before — he had to live with that failure on a daily basis.

While his mind shied from the thought, he nipped at her ear. "Lanie? You awake, honey?"

Lanie shifted again, pressing closer. Her drowsy murmur vibrated over his skin. "John ... We have to get up. We were supposed to be at Emerson's at seven."

His hand trailed from her breast, over her side, and between her thighs. He grinned at her sudden intake of breath. "Are you sure you feel up to it? Maybe you're running a temperature. You feel awful hot to me."

She writhed against his hand, her fingers a warm caress at his wrist. "I'm always hot with you. Lord, O'Reilly, I don't think I'm supposed to want this so much right now."

With a growl, he pulled her up against him and entered her with slow precision. Her body closed around him, hot, tight, wet. "Really? When did you start caring about what you weren't supposed to do, Falconetti?"

"I said I didn't think I was supposed to," she gasped, her body arched to bring them into closer contact. His hand slid up to her breast again. "I didn't say anything about caring — "

"Still worried about being late?" He almost pulled out, teasing them both.

"Are you kidding?" She pushed back against him, seeking him.

Laughing, lost in the scent of cinnamon and vanilla again, John gave her what they both wanted.

*
Steam silvered the bathroom mirror, and John wiped it away before smoothing a comb through his hair. Beside him, Lanie pulled her thick, dark hair into a casual knot. She shot him a cynical glance. "We're over an hour late. Everyone's going to know what we've been doing."

Affection thrummed through him, and with a grin, he pulled her into his arms. Her stomach bumped into his lower abdomen, the fit not quite as perfect as in the past. "We could stay in. Order Chinese and sit by the fire. I'll rub your ankles."

Temptation lurked in the golden depths of her eyes. "No, we can't. She'll only be here two days."

With a sigh, he let her go and walked into their bedroom. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he pulled on socks and his shoes. "Which cousin is this, anyway?"

"The perfect one." Disgruntled affection colored Lanie's voice.

John chuckled. "Is she really perfect?"

"No." Returning to the room, Lanie lifted a silver pendant on a long chain from her jewelry box and slid it over her head. The pendant, a stylized infinity swirl, nestled between her breasts and shone against her black tunic sweater. "She was just smart enough not to get caught."

An emotion John couldn't quite decipher shimmered in her voice, just below the surface. Resentment? Regret? He couldn't be sure. Either way, he could think of better ways to spend an evening than sitting around while Lanie caught up on old times with her faultless cousin. Like sitting in front of the fire, Lanie in his arms, and the quiet of the house wrapped around them.

While putting on small silver stud earrings, Lanie met his gaze in the mirror. "Are you ready — "

His cell phone's shrill chirp cut through the air. Shrugging in silent apology, he grabbed the phone from its charger. "O'Reilly."

"John?" His partner's voice greeted him and sent a shiver over his nerves, as it always did when he was unprepared. And even sometimes when he was prepared, when they sat close together in the unmarked unit, and he remembered the way it had been between them. Once upon a time when they'd been more than just colleagues and friends.

"Hey." Beth, he mouthed at Lanie's quizzical look. She smiled and turned away, dabbing an expensive, rarely-used perfume on her pulse points. "What's up?"

"I know you and Lanie are going out tonight, but I need a favor." Apology hovered in Beth's voice.

"Name it."

"I'm at the sitter's, and my damn car won't start. Could you — "

"I'll be there in ten minutes." Lanie glanced up at him, a question in her eyes, but none of the resignation and anger he knew lots of cops saw in the eyes of the women who waited at home.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "What Mattered Most"
by .
Copyright © 2007 Linda Winfree.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What Mattered Most 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A real emotional rollercoaster- Thanks for a good time!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mysterious-Melissa More than 1 year ago
I didn't expect to like this as much as I did even though I have read the author's previous books and really enjoy her writing. The hero of the story is definitely a clueless arse at the beginning, but it is interesting to see him change and progress as a person throughout the book as well as the heroine. The development of their relationship as a couple is also interesting to see.
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